Sunday, March 30, 2003

Melbourne 16.10.106 def. Hawthorn 15.10.100

NB: from now on there are likely to be quite a lot of posts about football. Consider yourself forewarned.

Once, just once, I would like Melbourne to play a really boring game. Like, if you're six goals ahead halfway through the last quarter, try not letting the other team level the score. It's all very well to kick the winning goal in the last two minutes of the game (this is after one of your players has taken a brilliant mark and gotten stretchered off, thereby causing further delay and further anxiety; it's all about that extra turn of the screw, the exquisite refinement of tension), but must you do this sort of thing every time you play?

On another topic, I've put some photos up. Lots of gorgeous kiddies, a grandmother, some Buffistas, etc. I'm quietly pleased with the way I turn out in most of these, incidentally, since I've always considered myself hideously unphotogenic.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

How can you tell?

It's about time I posted something childish and a bit rude, and where else would one turn for that but the LRB letters page? Here's one Tim Summers-Scott, with the kind of letter that one imagines he felt just a little embarrassed to actually see in print:

In his laudatory review of T.J. Binyon's biography of Pushkin (LRB, 20 February), James Wood makes much of Binyon's enthusiasm for his subject and his attention to detail. I have not read the book but Wood mentions 'a naughty poem' of Pushkin's, 'in which he promised, today, to kiss her like a Christian, but tomorrow, if requested, to convert to Judaism just for another kiss, and even to put into her hand "That by which one can distinguish/A genuine Hebrew from the Orthodox"'. Since the poem is entitled 'Christ is Risen' one must presume the member, circumcised or not, is erect. What I would like to know is how, in the erect state, you can tell. I realise this may say less about my ignorance of Pushkin than about my ignorance of life - and it is a detail, I agree - but if the book is as strong on detail as Wood makes out I think Binyon ought to tell us.

Er, yeah. At least, being the LRB, he got a response (and a correct one, too), from David Pollack of Leicester:

Tim Summers-Scott (Letters, 6 March) admits to an 'ignorance of life' regarding erect penises. I am happy to inform him that many uncircumcised examples remain fully covered when erect.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

What happened to the music?

Saw 24 Hour Party People today. I found it thoroughly enjoyable--I doubt that Michael Winterbottom is capable of making a film I don't like, actually--and Steve Coogan's performance was wonderful, as was the to-camera metadiegetic stuff, which is so amusing because it's possibly the first incusion into film proper of the discursive tics of DVD commentary. (He even says at one stage that a particular scene was deleted, but he's sure it will be on the DVD! By the way, I refuse to use the phrase "breaking the fourth wall." Cinema doesn't have a fourth wall!)

But at some point, a certain dissatisfaction crept in. Actually, I can locate the precise moment. We see the recently Curtis-deprived Joy Division rehearsing, guitars being strummed, and John Simm as Barney Sumner glumly intoning the familiar words "How does it feel/To treat me like you do," etc. Cue voiceover from Coogan as Tony Wilson about how rare it is for bands to continue being successful after they lose their lead singer, and about how Joy Division, reborn as New Order, defied the odds by releasing the biggest single 12" single of all time. Ah, I thought, here it comes, the great epiphany, when someone (I'm not enough of a pop historian to know who) picks up an 808 (or whatever it was), ditches the guitars, adds robotic drum patterns and synths, and the dreary indie strum-a-thon we're listening to becomes transformed into the glorious dystopian electro monster we all know and love as "Blue Monday." I'll bet they even indulge in a lightning cut to emphasise how radical the transformation was! It'll be corny, but it'll be great!

But...it never happens. Instead, we more or less flash forward to the birth of the Happy Mondays, and it isn't until the final credits that we get to hear any New Order music as such. Unbelievable! But while that might be the most egregious omission, overall I agree with Simon Reynolds that you never really get a sense of why any of this music--even the Mondays', more of whose music gets into the film than anyone else's--actually mattered, or, to put it less rock-historically, why people liked them. Having said that, I liked the film a lot more than Reynolds did, and the Hacienda scenes were great--I got a particular kick out of hearing A Guy Called Gerald's "Voodoo Ray" on the soundtrack.

Speaking of DVD commentaries, Jim informs me that Tony Wilson himself gives this film a fittingly narcissistic and hilarious commentary on the UK DVD, so I'm looking forward to hearing it.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

It is my melancholy duty to inform you...

Yes, we are at war. To mark the occasion, I'd just like to quote some lines from John Lennon's "Imagine"...


(Well, not about the war bit, unfortunately.)

Milestones in opportunism, Part One

The Science of Harry Potter: How Magic Really Works

But enough of that: today I received in the mail, courtesy of a very kind UK TTer, a VCD of Todd Haynes's notorious short film Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. I've already watched it once, and it's utterly fantastic. All the Haynes hallmarks are there: the parodic but never glib, fanatically perfect imitations of generic conventions (in this case, documentary and telemovie-grade biopic), the fascination with the constriction of some women's lives (and the ways they become complicit in it), the utterly deadpan humour--no "laugh here" signs, and yes I am talking about a movie that dramatises its entire plot using Barbie and Ken dolls. The use of dolls itself is as brilliantly effective as you've heard. The affectlessness (something that's becoming a bit of an aethetic preference for me, weirdly) works, I think, more as a critique of the desires aroused by the genre, a refusal to let us identify and obtain any kind of catharsis, than as what it might seem obviously meant to signify, namely the manufactured nature of the Karen Carpenter "phenomenon" (it is that as well, but I want to rescue it from the banality of being only that).

Sunday, March 16, 2003

La seule solution, c'était mourir

Today I bought Secondhand Sounds, a collection of remixes by Matthew Herbert. Good Lord he's good. I wish I was familiar with more of the tracks, since I suspect that a Herbert remix is pretty much guaranteed to be an improvement on the original (except when he remixes his own tracks, obv.). His mix of Serge Gainsbourg's "Bonnie and Clyde" is definitely going on my next CD, and will also, I suspect, provide it with its title (see above). I don't care if it's pretentious.

On another topic, I have a semi-serious rule against linking to LiveJournals, but everyone should read Ortheopist's brilliant entry In Praise of Bert, which confirms everything I've ever thought about the Bert/Ernie relationship; namely, that it's television's--or at least children's television's--most exemplary top/bottom pairing. (One of the reasons I don't like linking to LiveJournals is that they don't do permalinks, so depending on when you read this you may have to scroll down.)

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Get over it!

I've already posted this at Buffistas, but what the hell, I don't do serious taking-a-stand posts very often, so I'll stick it here as well. It was in response to a few posts of the type that always turn up when Anne Rice is mentioned: viz., I used to like her as a teenager, but I got over her. It will be pretty obvious to anyone who knows me, and my academic work in particular, why this formulation riles me: it's so similar to the urbane ways in which adolescent same-sex desires are dismissed. So anyway, here's what I said:

I'm wondering about this "getting over" thing. I mean, obviously we all had aesthetic preferences in our past that we don't have now, but I wonder why we feel compelled to say we "got over" them. I'm not having a go at anyone in particular, because I do this myself, but it seems to me that there's something a bit smug about this formulation, an assumption that because we're adults now we know better than to fall for this or that adolescent sentimental or romantic or utopian (or whatever) claptrap. What if, actually, the fact that we don't like something we used to like means that we've lost a faculty or a sensitivity that we used to have, and we're actually lesser for it? Isn't that at least a possibility?

I'm just thinking out loud here, because I wonder if people who are still committed to Anne Rice or whoever don't find it a bit condescending to be told, in effect, that they're just going through a phase, or they haven't grown up yet. I'm not an Anne Rice fan myself, and I never have been, but I remember once someone actually posted that they had "got over" Wuthering Heights. Good Lord, if I ever "get over" Wuthering Heights, please kill me.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

He even uses proper jargon like "303"

So I'm just idly perusing a few music sites, following links here and there, and what do I find but Jim on a UK music website, also in rave nostaglia mode. He goes so far as to use the word "Proustian." (No comment.)

Since a vague disclaimer is nobody's friend, I'd like to point out that I had the idea for my own A la recherche du rave perdu post before I read this. Also, I honestly did just find it by accident; I'm not the kind of sad obsessive quasi-stalker who goes around Googling the names of people he knows from internet forums, although I obviously am the kind of sad obsessive who feels it necessary to point this out. I did, however, download the tune Jim talked about and it's great; a lovely acid slow-burner.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

I Am So Hardcore!

As part of my drift towards all things techno, I've been downloading a lot of half-remembered rave anthems from the early 90s: stuff like GTO's "Pure," possibly the only song ever to have made a flute sound portentous and doom-laden, and Joey Beltram's "Energy Flash," with that wonderful, spine-chilling descending scale, along with early bleep-and-bass tunes like LFO's "LFO" (they really liked their three-letter names back then).

For one thing, I'm struck by how superbly all the above tunes have stood the test of time--when you consider that they were really huge tracks, played absolutely everywhere, you can't help but find today's equivalent (mass-market, lowest common denominator trance, I guess) pathetically anaemic, insipid, and by-the-numbers in comparison. I just love the promiscuity of a track like "Pure" (especially the breathtaking "Energy" mix); the freshness, the sense of spontaneity and excitement...and listening to it now it's still all there, it's not just nostalgia.

But in a sense it's not even nostalgia, because the truth is I wasn't really into this genre at the time. I was far too ensconced in house back then to give techno much of a second thought. The only reason I can even remember these tunes is that I used to hear them sometimes on specialist radio shows like the one that was on JJJ on Saturday nights (only in Adelaide, though), hosted by a couple of guys, one of whom was Stilgherrian (an emimently memorable, and Googlable, name!). I can't remember the name of the other presenter or the show itself, but I used to tune in religiously.

Which in turn has made me realise how many of my own musical choices--and, I imagine, other people's--have been determined by accident. For a start, it was shows like this one that really got me interested in dance music in the first place: if JJJ had never started broadcasting in Adelaide, if someone in the ABC hierarchy hadn't decided to approve that unheard-of JJJ thing, a local show, who knows, I might be an indie kid still! But why did I settle on house and not techno (or hip-hop, which they also played on this show--it's true, dance music was more eclectic in those days)? It's not that I don't think house fits in with some of my most deep-seated musical coordinates (its danceability, its gayness, its--for want of a better word--refinement), but techno, with the subtlety of its textures, its bracing anti-humanist aesthetics, its--for want of a better word--intelligence, those are things I want from music too, at least nowadays. And it's not as if Adelaide, whatever its limitations, didn't have a thriving techno scene back then.

What it comes down to is, the (few) friends I went clubbing with were into house, so that was what I ended up being into. Also, the Adelaide techno scene was very, very heterosexual, and I was just in the process of coming out (and thus submitting myself to years of appalling commercial dance in gay clubs--something that I'm delighted to report seems to be changing, judging by a recent visit to The Market, the most commercial and mainstream of Melbourne gay clubs, where the musical diet was rather tasty tribal house beats. About time!) And now, although I don't for a minute regret the house thing, or the coming out thing, I'm almost regretting that I was a bystander during rave's golden age.

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